A KIRKCALDY runner got 2012 off to the best possible start by winning the famous New Year Sprint at Musselburgh Racecourse.
Graeme Lister (25) captured the £4000 first prize at the 143rd staging of the 110 metres handicap by crossing the line in a time of 11.62 seconds, almost five metres ahead of Borders student Seb Harrison, with William Martin, Glenrothes, in third.
Lister, a former pupil of Viewforth High School, was the odds on favourite for the New Year’s Day event, having made it through a difficult heat the previous day, and he was roared to victory by a crowd of around 6000 people, with Channel Four broadcasting the sprint as part of their afternoon horse racing coverage.
The delighted champion told SportsPress: “It’s one of the biggest sprint events on the Scottish calendar so to win it was a brilliant feeling.
“It’s four months of hard work paying off. I set myself a goal to do it, and started training for it way back in August.
“I was more nervous about the heat than I was about the final because I was in one of the toughest draws.
“But once I came through that, I knew I had a chance. I’ll be keeping my TV appearance on my Sky+ box for a while yet!”
Lister’s victory made it a remarkable double triumph for renowned Kirkcaldy-based athletics coach Eric Simpson, who also coached last year’s winner Martyn Paterson.
Using the avenue of trees at the Beveridge Park as a training ground, Simpson and Lister laid the plans to win the world famous professional sprint at the beginning of last year.
Simpson said: “He’s not missed a training session since we started preparing for the meeting, and he’s made an amazing improvement – he’s found around five metres.
“I knew Graeme had the talent and temperament but when you are running in sub-zero temperatures and big money is at stake then you have to wait to the day.
“But Graeme came good and proved that the faith we had in him was justified.”
Lister is a lifelong Raith Rovers fan and has been competing since first taking an interest in athletics during cross-country races at school.
Simpson added: “It’s only in the last two years that he has really started to concentrate on his training and it has proved to be a very fruitful progression.
“Running around the various highland games he started to be noted as a promising 400m and 800m runner.
“A few 200m wins proved that he was no slouch over shorter distances but his win at the New Year Sprint shocked more than a few people.”
n The New Year Sprint is the most enduring open athletics event in the UK. A handicap race held over 110 metres, the Sprint has been staged in Scotland on or around New Year’s Day annually since 1870. Competitors, both amateur and professional, vie for prize money totalling over £8000.